During the 2008-09 academic school year, students across the state took an extra test.
The Indiana Statewide Testing for Education Progress-Plus (ISTEP+) was administered once during the fall and again in the spring.
Because of the changes in the test, the standards and the new spring administration, the results are notably different than prior versions of the ISTEP+, therefore it doesn't allow for a year-to-year comparisons.
"The 2009 spring ISTEP+ was a new test with new cut scores," Assistant Supt. of Curriculum and Instruction Kim Tucker said. "There is no comparison which is appropriate between the fall 2008 ISTEP+ test scores and the spring."
Only grades 3-8 were tested in the area of math and Clay Community Schools exceeded the state average of 72, with a posting of 73.1 and in English and language arts the corporation average was 68.6 and the state average was 70.8.
The schools above the state average in English and language arts and math include, Clay City Elementary, Forest Park Elementary, Jackson Township Elementary, Staunton Elementary and Van Buren Elementary. Meridian Elementary exceeded the state average in math.
Though many of the schools in the corporation are above state average there are still some that are not and many risk factors must be considered and addressed when looking at test scores.
"We cannot make excuses for ISTEP+ scores below the state average, we must keep striving to improve," Director of Curriculum and Grants Kathy Knust said. "When you look at the risk factors that we face as a community and the strides we have made as a school corporation it is obvious that our students, teachers, principals and parents are working harder than ever."
For example, the results posted by Forest Park Elementary, a school with 79 percent of its students on free and reduced lunch, show Knust and Tucker the changes made there are working.
"(FPE) is above the state average in all grades for math and English and language arts," Tucker said. "Its Title 1 school which did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) over the last two years, but is showing tremendous gains from the 2007-08 school year due to the implementation of a Response To Intervention (RTI) program last year."
According to the Indiana Department of Education during the 2007-08 school year, 49 percent of the students were on free/reduced lunch compared to the 45 percent state average. This school year 51, percent of the students are on free/reduced lunch with two elementary buildings where 78 percent and 79 percent of students are on free/reduced lunch.
With an unemployment rate that ranks Clay County 32nd out of 92 counties as of August 2009, and a median household income of $11,788 below the Indiana state average income, Knust believes it now more than ever that students need to be reached in the classrooms.
"Many of our families are struggling just to put food on the table and pay their monthly bills," she said. "It is impossible for these families to provide extra monetary support for additional tutoring and remediation beyond what we as a corporation can provide within the school day."
Even with the stress at home and the burdens many families are feeling with a tighter budgeted income, several grade levels across the corporation are posting percentages in the 80-90 range, including:
* Meridian -- 92.1 (third grade)
* Staunton -- 90.2 (fourth grade)
* Jackson -- 87 (fifth grade)
* Clay City Elementary -- 86 (sixth grade)
* Staunton -- 88.4 (third grade)
* Forest Park-- 86.8 (fourth grade)
* Jackson -- 84.1 (fifth grade)
* Clay City Elementary- 85.3 (sixth grade)
With a 22.5 percent special education population compared to the 17.5 percent Indiana State Average, Knust and Tucker are using it as a motivational tool to show success.
"The 5 percent increase means we must work much harder than other schools, such as Carmel where special education populations are far below the state average, in order to leave no child behind," Knust said.
"Low scores are still prevalent in the disaggregated areas of free/reduced lunch, special education and gender," Tucker added. "While these areas are also low in terms of state average (CCSC) begins to see the most serious decline for their disaggregated populations beginning in the sixth grade and continuing through the secondary program."
With the only 13.3 percent of Clay County residents with an associates or bachelor's degree compared to the 21.4 percent Indiana State average, the teachers and administrators have a rough road ahead.
"It is extremely important that we work with the schools and the community to provide students with resources and information regarding postsecondary opportunities," Knust said. "This group of students are unlikely aware of them because they will be first generation family members attempting to obtain postsecondary degrees."
In spite of the risk factors Knust and Tucker are proud of the 80.8 percent of high school seniors with postsecondary plans compared to the Indiana average of 76.1 percent.
Some of the academic improvement initiatives include the entire corporation beginning the process of curriculum mapping. There is on-going grade level and department level mapping, the goal is to develop corporation wide and building level maps for grades Kindergarten-12 in mathematics and language arts before fall of 2010, with social studies and science mapping completion by fall 2011.
"An (RTI) leadership team comprised of teachers, parents, administration and support staff has been appointed to create a district wide implementation plan for (RTI)," Tucker said. "This plan will specifically develop intervening instructional strategies and assessments for high performing, under challenged students as well as struggling students."
Several of the elementary schools have already begun to pilot the RTI or similar programs. Differentiated Instruction will also continue to be used at all levels.
"All teachers have received training in Differentiated Instruction and will continue to receive advanced training and on-going coaching in the classroom," she said. "Differentiated Instruction is the cornerstone to an effective (RTI) Program at every grade level and every subject area."
Though data is being analyzed every day, it is life after graduation for the students that also weigh on Knust's mind.
For students who have decided against pursuing a postsecondary education, she believes CCSC should continue develop and meet the needs of those students.
"We must continue to update and expand our adult life and career preparation programs for students that elect to enter the workforce upon graduation," she said.
"As a member of a community that has high unemployment rates and ranks far below state average regarding household income, I am very proud of the amount of scholarship money we as a community are able to generate each year for our students," she added. "However, I fear those who are not receiving financial support struggle in their attempt to graduate from a college or university."
By the numbers
The percentage results for the Clay Community School Corporation for the spring 2008-09 ISTEP+
Clay Community Schools -- Enrollment -- 4,573
|2008-09||Spring||English/LA 68.6||State Average 70.8|
|2008-09||Spring math||73.1||State Average 72|
By the numbers
2008-09 Spring ISTEP+ percentage results for schools within the Clay Community School Corporation, students in grades 3-8 took the test. The numbers below include enrollments and 2008-09 Spring E/LA and math scores based on percentage:
|Clay City Elementary (395) -- 75.4|
|Clay City Jr./Sr. High School (426) -- 61.3|
|East Side Elementary (272) -- 66.9|
Forest Park Elementary (313) -- 77.9
Jackson Township Elementary (329) -- 83.6
Meridian Elementary (287) -- 67.7
North Clay Middle School (888) -- 65.6
Staunton Elementary (287) -- 85.4
Van Buren Elementary (226) -- 77.6
State Average -- 71.4 (all grades tested)